I've heard a little of the history of the odd way that Atlantis is inserted into the bowels of the Cape. Apparently the last large piece of undeveloped land in Cape St. Claire was a wooded strip with the borders that I've described above ending on the shore of Deep Creek where it meets the Magothy. It was known locally as, the "Ramblewoods". Generations of Capers explored this wooded 60 or so acres and probably cut through it to reach the opposite end of the peninsula or the mouth of Deep Creek. I can only imagine how unique and cherished that section of untouched land must have been.
At some point the owner of the property made the inevitable decision to sell it to developers (early 80s?). Just about any one of us would have done the same at the opportune time, but it must have been crushing to those who lived in the Cape. While we of course don't hold this against our neighbors in Atlantis, I think there will always be a little resentment and a sense that the Ramblewoods should have remained untouched or somehow part of the Cape. An overhead picture of the newly cleared land and first paved streets of Atlantis hangs on the wall at Broadneck Grill above the table near the dessert display (my favorite seat in the house).
There is a palpably different feel to Atlantis than the Cape. When you pass from one into the other, there's no question that you're in a different place. Atlantis is wide, evenly paved roads and culdesacs with sidewalks and cute black lamposts neatly bordering the streets. The lawns are manicured in front of a mix of 80s/90s split foyers and 2-stories along with a strip of contemporary waterfront homes at the Deep Creek end. I envy the wide roads when I'm on a bike; of course, I covet their public water with every ounce of my being (see Aug. 13 post); and there's not a power line in sight (see previous post).
The Cape is all narrow, uneven, meandering, wooded roads with sidewalks only along the major arteries and then just on one side - the minimum to meet county requirements to get kids to school safely. The houses are a hodgepodge of 50s ranchers, 70s split foyers, 80s and 90s 2-stories, and upgraded waterfront showplaces. I affectionately used the term "rednecklectic" to describe our community in a previous post, and I think that pretty well sums it up.
But perhaps more than anything (with the exception of its water privileges), the Cape is defined by its trees. The first time I ever drove through Cape St. Claire, it was in the winter after a light snow, and the neighborhood was magical - the trees and yards dusted with a perfect frosting of white. I knew right then that this is where I wanted to live (OK - a million dollars in my pocket might have landed me in Amberley or Bay Ridge, but that ship has sailed). It was all about the trees and the wooded feel. True, it can be a pain when the wind blows and the power lines come down, but I blame that on power lines that should be buried - not on the trees.
And that brings us back to the other way you can tell that you're in Atlantis and not the Cape - by looking up. Along the borders of Atlantis, you can see a tree line of higher and older trees than anything else in the community. Most of the trees within Atlantis were planted when it was developed, and they are noticeably younger and more ornamental than the native trees that stretch toward the sky along the perimeter. These are the last remaining sentinels of the Ramblewoods - the ones left behind to remind us of what was.
Remaining "Ramblewoods" along the border of Atlantis.
I'm glad I wasn't here when the Ramblewoods were chopped and bulldozed. I'm really not THAT big of a tree hugger, but it would have been tough. If you look closely, however, the Cape does have some remaining places where you can get a taste of what the Ramblewoods might have felt like. Pockets of woods exist along the borders and some within the community that have escaped development for one reason or another. A little exploring will lead you to one if you take the time to look. I bet some of your kids know about them.
When we remodeled our house a few years back, my husband and son started going on what they called "Manly Man" hikes to escape the disarray of our household. They would bundle up (it was winter), take the dog and a walking stick, and head out across the Cape to find adventure. On occasion, I was allowed to join them on these "Manly Man" walks, and I was amazed at the wooded places they had discovered. They're extensive enough that you can briefly forget you're in a suburban community and pretend for a moment to be deep in the woods.
For the most part, these areas lie along the perimeter of the high school or the elementary school and border College Parkway and Cape St. Claire Rd. Another is squeezed in the no man's land where Atlantis meets the Cape on the Southview side - a remaining strip of the Ramblewoods. You have to find the secret entrances, and you never quite know where you'll come out on the other end.
Laika and I ducked into a trail off of Mt. Pleasant just the other day and emerged behind the high school stadium. I have to believe this is a standard path home for high schoolers. There are some well-worn trails in these backwoods, so I know we're not the only ones who have walked them, and we've found evidence that paint-ballers frequent the bigger areas off of College Parkway. In fact, on one of my guys' "Manly Man" walks, the woods erupted in paint-ball fire requiring some hasty evasive action.
The best time of year to search out these wooded areas is late fall or winter when the mosquitoes and poison ivy have gone dormant and the brush and vines have died back. As safe as I feel in the Cape in general, I wouldn't suggest going alone. It's just a bad idea to go to any remote area by yourself. At a minimum, take a trusty dog with you, and let someone know where you're headed. It's also important to be considerate and respectful of people's property. Occasionally, you emerge near someone's backyard, and you need to allow the time to backtrack if necessary.
As the weather starts to turn cooler, find a few hours on the weekend to walk around the Cape and perhaps you'll find some surprises of your own. It's the best way to get to know a place and your neighbors. Our community will never again be open farmland and deep dark Ramblewoods, but even in suburbia, you might find some traces of what was once here. And in another 50 years, even what's here now will be changed. Enjoy it while you can so you will have your own stories to tell about "the old days".
Not having lived here before Atlantis was developed, I may well be over-romanticizing the true story of the Ramblewoods. If anyone has their own "Ramblewoods" story to tell or can add to or correct my information, please post a comment or e-mail me.